Ok this is the subject I know little about but I really need to learn – losing weight through diet. It was a desire to lose weight that got me back into running a few years ago and it certainly proved effective…to a point. In all seriousness, through running and focusing a little but on diet I managed to lose somewhere just over 50 pounds. I hit my minimum adult running weight around when I ran the Leavenworth Marathon in 2012 which was also the fastest marathon that I have run.
How Weight Affects Performance
There is a strong correlation between race performance and weight. This makes sense. If you have two runners of identical fitness and you trim say 10 lbs of fat off of one of them, the lighter runner is going to run faster. Think about it, it certainly would be easier to run without an extra sack of potatoes strapped to you.
I am an engineer so I like quantitative information. Looking at VO2 max (which is basically a calculation of the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute) the units of measure are ml/kg/min. Therefore, VO2 max is inversely proportional to your weight (or mass in this calculation). What that means is that if you decrease your weight you increase your aerobic capacity. That makes sense since the other factors in the equation (your heart and lungs) are just as proficient as ever at pumping oxygenated blood to your working muscles – there is just less weight to lug around. It is important to note that there is a law of dismissing returns as well so someone with an extremely low Body Mass Index (BMI of less than 18.5) will actually see their performance suffer with additional weight loss because your body is not in the healthy range so you risk becoming weaker and slower.
But just how much faster will you run if you lose weight? Runners World put together a correlation that I have tried to use in my training. I treat is as a rough guide as opposed to the gospel truth.
|Weight Loss (lb)||5K||10K||Half-Marathon||Marathon|
|2||12.5 sec||25 sec||52 sec||1 min 45 sec|
|5||31 sec||1 min 02 sec||2 min 11 sec||4 min 22 sec|
|10||1 min 02 sec||2 min 04 sec||4 min 22 sec||8 min 44 sec|
|20||2 min 4 sec||4 min 08 sec||8 min 44 sec||17 min 28 sec|
Taking Performance to the Next Level
If I am being honest with myself, the only way I can tangibly improve my personal running performance is to lose weight. What I did training wise to prepare for the Boston Marathon is realistically the most I can train given the many other commitments that I have in my life. I was actually somewhat disappointed in by Boston Marathon performance since it did not seem to correlate to the work that I put in. Interestingly enough, my weight for Boston was actually higher than it was for Leavenworth 6 months prior.
I am by no stretch of the imagination over weight but if you put any stock into BMI, I am actually at the upper bound of the normal range – so there is some room to trim the fat (no pun intended :)). What that all means is that if I really want to improve, there is more bang for my buck at the kitchen table than there is on the roads.
Diets for Fast Weight Loss
Ok, let’s be honest here I hate diets. I like junk food too much and while I can do a pretty good job for a week or two I always end with a bag of Doritos on the couch. In the past, the amount of training that I have done has made up for a not so great diet in terms of weight loss but I have been at a plateau for quite a while.
I did some research on the topic of weight loss and there is a ton of garbage out there. I am sure you have heard of several fad diets and I can see how temping these sort of diet crazes can seem but at the end of the day, like most things in life, it sounds too good to be true rest assured that it is.
What that means is no program that promotes pills, laxatives, fasting, cleansing, or really anything that promises weight loss faster than 2-3 pounds per week for me. Truth be told as a runner who is working on a marathon training program you need to have a certain consistent calorie load to build and maintain strong muscles to exercise effectively. What I have concluded is that weight loss is simple to understand but hard to implement. It is nothing more to it that moving more and eating better in a sustainable manner. It just takes a lot of commitment and resolve to be able to consistently do that.
As I train for the Leavenworth Marathon this October, I am going to try to focus on working as hard at the kitchen table as I do on the roads. Michael Dansinger, MD recommends eating a diet that minimizes starches, added sugars, and animal fat from meat and dairy foods. For rapid weight loss, Dansinger recommends focusing on fruits, veggies, egg whites, soy products, skinless poultry breasts, fish, shellfish, nonfat dairy foods, and 95% lean meat.
That is what I am going to try to do – sound challenging and it means giving up the ice cream before bed, the fries when I go to Red Robin and well the Tillamook cheese and burgers, steak, etc. (sniff, sniff).
I found several other great tips that I am going to try to implement over the next 17 weeks until Leavenworth:
(1) Eat vegetables to help you feel full – Makes sense to fill yourself up with good vegetables rather than starches, sugars, and fat. Problem though – I hate cooked vegetables. I have found that I can deal with the raw ones. That means that when I am hungry, instead of heating up an egg roll or grabbing the chips and salsa, it is time to find the carrot instead. At dinner time, having a salad will help minimize the other high calorie foods that you are going to find on your plate.
(2) Dink plenty of water – Ok…so how much is that? According to Science Daily to find the ounces of water you should drink you take your weight in pounds and divide by two. That would mean that a 180 person needs to drink 90 ounces of water each day or around 7.5 x 12-ounces of water.
(3) Get tempting food out you home – I have kids so that it not realistic especially after Halloween or during the holidays. So, what can I do here? It is going to take a lot of will power but in reality if you cannot get all of the “junk food” out of your house you just need to make sure there are all lot of healthy options also available to make it easier to grap something good.
(4) Stay busy — you don’t want to eat just because you’re bored – Just eating for the sake of eating happens to me all the time, particularly in the evening. I can manage it on the weekdays in the evening by just committing to not eat anything after 7:00pm (no good eating ever happens after 7:00pm for me). During the weekends, it is more challenging and in reality at work during the week is not all that easy either, particularly when the co-worker bring donuts.
(5) Eat only from a plate, while seated at a table – Have not tried this. Seems like a reasonable control. I guess that means not eating in-front of the TV while watching Psych. You have to wonder if a bowl meets this criteria otherwise soup is going to be interesting.
(6) Don’t skip meals – This is more important that you would think. Most people are tempted to do this but it does nothing but slow your metabolism and rob you of the energy you need as a runner. You have probably heard that multiple small meals are better than one or two large meals. You need to keep your metabolism revved up and if your hunger is consistently satisfied, you are not going to be tempted to over eat.
(7) Keeping a food journal (write down everything you eat) – This is hard but Bonnie Dix, RD and author of Read It Before You Eat It said that the act of writing it down is what is most important. If you write it down on a napkin and throw it away that is ok as you are being accountable to yourself and is an effective tool for weight loss.
I am going to try to implement these steps over the next 17 weeks and see how it goes. I have no goals or ambitions as to how much weight I am going to loose as I am really just focused on eating better and developing sustainable habits. I know that if I do that the results will take care of themselves.
I will try to give updates on this post as to how effective it proves to be. I will track my BMI here (no laughing please) and keep a brief journal on how things are going. I got a new scale for this effort and it does not seem to be as kind as my normal scale (it is more consistent with the evil one my doctor uses) so at least I know the scale is not giving me any help with the bottom line….